Victim of modernity

(Yes, lens flare. Thanks, JJ Abrams.)

For the last two weeks, two Santacruzans passed by our place (one per week). Both of them were sad images of the current times.

I used to remember Santacruzans of old. Growing up in the metropolis, these events were refreshing, a gust of fresh air to clear the stale atmosphere left by modernity and a hectic lifestyle. Every weekend of May, we looked forward to Saturday nights. They used to be grandiose spectacles – bright, cheery, and smoky. Yes, smoky, as they use firecrackers in these parades (I dunno what were kwitis for, but lusis I could understand). There were karosas with generator sets after them, exuding light in the dim road. There were young men in barong, dashing but most of the time a bit awkward or shy (or both). There were young women in white gowns, their smiles as bright as the sparklers, waving their hands as if competing in a beauty pageant. There were the busy moms, attending to their sons and daughters, like stage moms do.

After the parade, the busy road became dark and dreary, the way it was ever since. It remains dark and dreary during nights.

After twenty years or so, we moved to a different city. The atmosphere is different. There is no busy road, but it can be dark and dreary from time to time. Time rolls so slowly yet it passes quickly you’d not notice it. Poverty is more pronounced, more obvious. The improving economy always has its victims, and I wonder if this place is one of them.

Last week, when I heard that there would be a Santacruzan (and a niece would be part of it), I took my camera and prepared for a night shoot. I am not fond of using the flash, but I thought the lighting would help. I was wrong. A cousin borrowing a rechargeable flashlight was a sign.

It was a sad spectacle. No more fancy karosas with gensets. No more torches. Heck, no candles. Some relied on streetlights (and you know how reliable these are). Some managed to scrounge up rechargeable lamps and flashlights. There were occasional kwitis, which had no purpose but to announce the incoming pageantry of patheticness.

What were worse were the participants. They looked apathetic, bored, obviously forced by their moms to wear these uncomfortable clothes. Heck, a man was texting while walking, clad in a barong, unmindful of the woman whose left hand was in the man’s right arm. The girls were not smiling. It was pathetic.

Yesterday was another Santacruzan. This time it was late afternoon, so I had the benefit of fading daylight. But it was no different. It was a repeat of last week, only with daylight. The daylight did nothing to lighten up the mood. The walking young men and women were still wearing frowns, while the stage moms were laughing like crazy in a barangay van.

What a change twenty years have done.